October 3, 2022
Mental illness is a daunting problem that affects people from all walks of life. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 adults in the United States suffers from a mental illness. This number is even higher for adults who identify as LGBTQIA+, with 1 in 3 adults suffering from a mental illness. The rates of mental illness in the LGBTQIA+ community are so high because of the unique stressors that this community faces. These stressors can include but are not limited to: discrimination, violence, and exclusion.
The high rates of mental illness in the LGBTQIA+ community are often exacerbated by a lack of access to quality mental healthcare. This is due in part to the fact that many mental healthcare providers are not trained to deal with the specific needs of LGBTQIA+ patients. As a result, many members of the LGBTQIA+ community do not seek out the help that they so desperately need.
The Risk Factors for Mental Illness in the LGBTQIA+ Community
There are many risk factors for mental illness in the LGBTQIA+ community. Some of these risk factors include:
• Discrimination: One of the biggest risk factors for mental illness in the LGBTQIA+ community is discrimination. This discrimination can take many forms, including workplace discrimination, housing discrimination, and hate crimes. Unfortunately, discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals is still legal in many parts of the United States. This puts members of this community at a heightened risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
• Violence: Another big risk factor for mental illness in the LGBTQIA+ community is violence. This violence can take many forms, including physical violence, sexual violence, and emotional abuse. According to The Trevor Project, nearly half of all transgender and non-binary youth have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. This high rate of violence often leads to increased rates of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health problems among members of this already vulnerable group.
• Exclusion: Yet another big risk factor for mental illness in the LGBTQIA+ community is exclusion. This exclusion can take many forms, including family rejection, social isolation, and rejection from religious institutions. Exclusion from family and friends can be especially damaging to young people who are just beginning to explore their identities. According to The Trevor Project, 78% of transgender and non-binary youth reported feeling sad or hopeless when thinking about their future because they did not have anyone to talk to about their experience as an LGBT individual.
The CDC also notes that "rejection by family and friends, bullying, or violence" can lead to mental illness in LGBTQIA+ youth. Bullying can take many forms, including physical violence, verbal harassment, and cyberbullying. It's important to remember that even if bullying doesn't result in physical injuries, it can still have a profound effect on someone's mental health.
How Can We Support LGBTQIA+ Individuals with Mental Illness?
If you know someone who is struggling with their mental health, there are things you can do to help. First and foremost, you can be there for them as a friend or ally. Listen to them without judgment and offer your support however you can. If they need professional help, encourage them to seek counseling or therapy from a qualified provider who is familiar with LGBTQIA+ issues.
You can also help by being an advocate for change. Speak out against discrimination and violence against LGBTQIA+ individuals. Show your support for inclusive policies and programs that benefit the community. And most importantly, don't be afraid to have open and honest conversations about mental health with the people in your life—you never know how much it could mean to someone who is struggling.
Mental illness is a serious issue that affects people of all ages, races, genders, and sexual orientations—but members of the LGBTQIA+ community are especially vulnerable. If we want to create a world that is truly inclusive and accepting of all people, then we need to do better when it comes to supporting our LGBTQIA+ friends and neighbors—and that starts with an open conversation about mental health.